So here after all this time I was once again. L.A. A cheap hotel room. Some invisible spot on a map of somewhere of which I once had prior knowledge. But that I never expected to find myself again. Well, almost not. Twenty three years earlier I had come out here to be on the other end of the camera. Three years previous while seeking lodgings for a convention that didn’t yield anything more than another hopeful door irrevocably shut. And now sitting here on the torn cotton bedcover lost in nowhere caught up by some cockamamie notion that my tired used up face still has some screen potential. If only in passing, of course. Sixty plus years the sum total yielding no sustainable illusions save that everything that one builds up sooner than later gets broken down to dust Lately it seemed with my own case, sooner. What ever form of life that I had held down back in the Midwest was a far distant memory now. Once a carpenter, photographer, graphic artist, and even for much too long, a teacher. That was all part of someone else’s memory now. Nor, no longer the loyal if not recalcitrant son. The grudging old man who I had known all my life as my father. The one who had provided so generously in his heyday with one hand and then in his wintery fall had lambasted me with the other for not fulfilling his long held expectations was now equally long dead. Then there were the many false starts that I had, for brief moments of the present, referred to as ‘love interests’ or, in the misstep of a fatal calculation of my true solitary nature, as ‘wife’. Even that loving mother who had been deposed over nine decades who by her own numbing addiction to an absence of pain had collapsed into an unsupportable overweight living corpse. The residue of the hopes and dreams occasionally for a brief time made good or more frequently petered out and thus forgotten barely filling the sterling silver punchbowl chaotically dropped in a closet of spent storage technology and eccentric mementos as emptied haphazardly from a suitcase.
The lines on my face held the real story. Ones that I had hoped to peddle with sufficient hutzpah as demonstrable experience to land a bit part here or maybe there. At least that was the plan six months previous when I had ‘temporarily’ checked into to this dingy little room at the Mayfair. I might as well have been booked into the Central Regional Correctional Facility over in Lynwood for as much chance as I had of ever getting out alive. No, the dreams of my lifetime now were leveraged in to this shoddy little closet sized space that might have served a Raymond Chandler in the hotel’s Hollywood heyday. But were now simply the remaining evidence that the past is merely a phantom in an over-exercised imagination. But that being merely a taste of the story as it presently seemed to be going down. A measly trailer of another anonymous misspent existence in the corollary of “who cares”. The real backstory was that despite six months of going through every dime of the meager funds scraped together from the sum total of a cashed out teacher’s pension and the residual real estate passed on by my failed family, my taste for unreality was still not spent. The rent, such as it was, now coming due. And, yet once more, no hopeful prospects on the immediate horizon to proved even a buck for a cup of coffee. The pawn shop five blocks down over on Wilshire had everything remaining of worth that could be called mine and that was still useful. Existence was now laid out moment to moment in the present sense of ‘tense’. Tense down to the count of seconds where if some long forgotten angel didn’t arrive at my door without announcement, what remained of the person inside my still animate shell would be thrown into the irredeemable limbo of the unknown. The audition was at 2:30 in the afternoon down by the Farmer’s Market somewhere near Beverly and Fairfax by CBS. A place called the Farmer’s Daughter hotel. Another typical L.A. dive that attracted would be actors of all ages like flies to freshly deposited manure. Especially actors that were past their usable prime for studio work and would do anything for a second or two of useful airtime before an ‘Indie’ audience, any audience. Maybe it would be a fifty, or perhaps a hundred dollar bill if things went right. Enough to stay here another day or two and keep the fiction of the possibility of last minute success going.
The room hangs in the predawn rosy glow of the sun hidden unseeable somewhere over the shoulder of the San Bernadino mountains back East. The creaking springs of the broken down double bed that was wedged in the midst of this tiny eighth floor sleeper, originally designed only for the accompaniment of a Murphy bed. The broken toilet gurgled breaking the silence into my left ear as I stare at the warm glow inching across a cracked stucco ceiling. That ultimate beauty of life now seemly locked in a definition as the predecessor of advancing dissolution. Something that now, as before, seems uniquely L.A. Perhaps a lingering vengeful curse by those Chumash Indians upon the antecedents of this white culture which had so completely decimated their numbers hundreds of years earlier? This same perverse wisdom abundantly true, of course, in every other habitable area of the globe but somehow uniquely so here. People seemed to come here on-masse, equally to either live or die, to be transformed or to slowly fall into themselves like the dilapidated hotels the other side of the Harbor freeway at Seventh an Olive streets. Outspoken secrets mouthed by cheesy little brown eyed hookers slowly grazing on the north forty of the Sunset Strip waiting impatiently for some movie mogul to see a little bit of Heddy-ness in their own specialized version of Lamar.
After a cup of cheap coffee gleaned from a stale hospitality packet, I sit before my best pair of pants sewing together the rents and frays of the cuffs of my last decent pair of serviceable pants. Black thread and a needle in a trembling hand, I can only find the proper placement of the next stitch by pricking between the two fingers that repress the worn through holes hoping that no attention might be drawn to them during the audition. It is only a block down and a single step down the rung into oblivion to the Holland Hotel. The cold welcome of that toothless old manager that keeps a house of drug happy inmates for the benefit of a select group of tenants who are connoisseurs of cigarette burns and anal violation. All this for the small corner security of a rat infested room in a condemned and soon to be demolished structure. A perfect haven for those who don’t mind crack smoke of the slow meltdown of their lives in the eternal cauldron of frustration. One that more than occasionally concludes in razor sharp violence and one’s anonymous corpse being carelessly dumped in one of the adjacent neighborhood alleys. It would be a shorter trip down Wilshire West to Fairfax though with much longer odds of success. At this point, I was hoping against hope that something however small would happen. Miniscule. However miniscule, any reprieve from the horrors of such a fate would be gratefully welcomed.